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River Ridge loses 1-0 in nine

Palm Harbor U. needs extra innings to win its fourth consecutive district championship.

By JOHN C. COTEY, WAYNE GRUMET and GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- With the bases loaded in the first inning, River Ridge had a chance to finally score against Palm Harbor U. after two regular-season shutout losses. It didn't score, or get another chance to.

Katie Dobson settled down and held River Ridge to two hits as the Hurricanes captured their fourth consecutive district title with a 1-0 nine-inning win in the Class 5A, District 9 final at Ridgewood.

Dobson struck out 13 as the Hurricanes finally found a few holes with their bats. Leading off the bottom of the ninth, catcher Janine Palumbo doubled and scored on Dana Hofer's single up the middle.

River Ridge pitcher Christine Beck, who had allowed just two hits to that point, and centerfielder Adrienne Cicirello, who bobbled Hofer's single to let Palumbo score easily, were despondent afterward as the Royal Knights lost their third district final in as many tries.

"We had our chances," coach Ernie Beck said.

"We came to play. It's disappointing to see the kids with their heads down."

The Royal Knights (24-6) had one good chance to score. Cicirello led off the game with a walk, and Amy Cassell reached on an infield single. After Beck and cleanup hitter Stefani Simon struck out, Jill Hrovoski reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases.

But Dobson struck out Jen Brumbaugh looking to end the threat.

The only other Royal Knight hit was disputed as Brandy Portalitin appeared to make a diving catch. Otherwise, River Ridge got only one runner to second base the rest of the way.

Beck matched Dobson on the mound. Though she struck out only one, she was backed by her defense as Hrovoski handled seven ground balls at third and River Ridge played errorless ball.

Jacque Muskatevc doubled once and walked and stole second another time but was stranded each time. -- JOHN C. COTEY

4A-9: Gators rally for title

LAND O'LAKES -- Clearwater was one out away from the title. But it committed a pair of errors to allow Land O'Lakes to steal the game 4-3 in eight innings.

The Tornadoes led 3-2 with two outs in the seventh when Ashley Patton hit a fly ball to rightfield. Kitty Riggs misjudged the ball in the strong wind and tripped. The ball glanced off of Riggs' glove as she fell, and Patton ended up on third. Michelle Hausman followed with a double to left, tying the game at 3.

With two outs it the eighth, Land O'Lakes had the bases loaded. Second baseman Sarah Brown misplayed a ground ball by Amber DeYoung as the Gators' April Slate passed in front of her.

Jen Savage scored to give the Gators a 4-3 lead. Clearwater then went down in order in the bottom of the eighth. "We were one out away from the championship, and we don't make the play that we need to make," Clearwater coach Brian Mont said.

"We make that play, and ... and we're on the bus. Instead, we bobbled it around and turned a single into a triple."

Clearwater (17-10) had Land O'Lakes in check for the first five innings thanks to starter Mariah Green. Green, who pitched a no-hitter in Wednesday's semifinal win over Springstead, opened with another 41/3 hitless innings.

Once Land O'Lakes (17-9) broke through, on an Amanda Gulino bunt single, the game changed. The Gators had eight hits in the next four innings.

All four of Land O'Lakes' runs came thanks to errors. Savage took advantage of consecutive errors in the sixth to drive in two runs with a single. Clearwater's Allison Stanley opened the game with a RBI double in the first, and Katie Cavallaro had a two-run single in the fifth.

Land O'Lakes starter Ashley Patton settled down after the Tornadoes opened a 3-0 lead. Patton (14-7) allowed one hit over the final three innings, retiring the final five batters. "We got a break, but I'll take it," Land O'Lakes coach Jerry English said.

"It was an uphill battle and, we really had to play our best. This was a complete game for us tonight. This was the best game the kids played all year." -- WAYNE GRUMET

4A-6: Bears make history

BROOKSVILLE -- It took Central three takes to get the final out -- a fielding error, a foul popup that dropped between two fielders, then finally, a popup that landed in the outstretched glove of Bears second baseman Riki Aulozzi.

Ten minutes later, Aulozzi had a bouquet of flowers in one hand and the Class 4A, District 6 championship trophy in the other following a 7-1 victory over Pasco.

It's the first district title in Bears softball history, and because of Thursday's victory, that wasn't the last home game for Aulozzi and her fellow seniors.

"I get to keep this tonight," Aulozzi said of the district trophy. "I'm so excited we did this."

Central (17-8) got its second complete game in as many days from junior Jen Clark, who struck out eight batters and got Pasco to strand 10 more on the basepaths.

"From the start, we knew," Clark said of her team's chances. "Our whole team was together from the very beginning, from the first time we stepped on the field."

The Bears, who won 16-0 one night earlier, quietly built a 2-0 lead, the latter coming in a hitless third inning with the help of two of Pasco's four errors.

Freshman Tonya Stevenson gave Central a boost with a two-out triple in the fifth, and Central put the game away with a three-run sixth.

"I was in a big slump and really needed a hit," Stevenson said. "I went up and said, "All right, Tonya, you need to do this.' It was good to finally get a hit."

Pasco (10-10) had its chances, leaving the bases loaded in the third inning and stranding two batters in the first and fifth. Clark retired the final six batters without a hit.

Bears coach Benny Martinez said his team set three goals before the season. Two are already accomplished, with the team's first conference and district crowns. He won't say what the next is, but the Bears start working on it Tuesday at home. -- GREG AUMAN

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